Cultured Magazine

Summer 2013

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FRANCOPHILE In postwar France, a new generation of architects and designers produced innovative works dedicated to modernity, utility and elegance. We explore some of the best the period has to offer, on view at Design Miami/Basel. IMAGES COURTESY OF GALERIE PASCALCUISINIER COM AND GALERIE PATRICK SEGUIN BY SUSAN MORGAN Maison des Jours Meilleurs, 1954, by Jean Prouvé; Fauteuil Soleil, 1958, by Janine Abraham and Dirk Jan Rol. Janine Abraham and Dirk Jan Rol Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq Designing couple Janine Abraham (1929-2005) and Dirk Jan Rol (1929-) met in 1955 while employed in the Paris studio of Jacques Dumond. Abraham had studied with Rene Jean Caillette, an influential modernist whose rigorous work reconciled genuine usefulness with a reductive aesthetic. Rol was a cabinetmaker, trained as an architect in his native Holland. By 1957 the two were established as Abraham and Rol, a collaborative firm with singular talents and a shared vision. Their Soleil armchair (1958), an architectonic sunburst constructed from rattan, is deftly engineered and wonderfully exuberant: The tightly woven center, cinched like a sheaf of wheat, provides a snug seat and secure base, while the sinuous reeds keep radiating out, performing backbends in the air and delivering a sense of pure joy. During the 1950s, a group of young French architects and designers, including Antoine Philippon (1930-1995) and Jacqueline Lecoq (1932-), revived the functionalist ideals defined by the Union des Artistes Modernes in the 1930s. Infusing UAM values with postwar optimism, this next generation employed new materials and postwar technologies to produce designs that fully embraced notions of efficiency, comfort and the better life ahead. Philippon and Lecoq's work ranged from sleek office interiors and a suave drinks cabinet to a low-slung Multifunctional Furniture (1958-59), sporting a television, record player and bar. Their 1967 desk, a spare wooden rectangle accessorized with white laminate and set afloat in glass frame, brokers the perfect marriage between functionalism and understated elegance. Charlotte Perriand Jean Prouvé When Steph Simon opened his gallery on Boulevard Saint-Germain in 1956, he exhibited mid-century modernism as it was being created. Operating as Edition Steph Simon, he took on an even more active role and, for more than 15 years, produced furniture designed by Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé. Among these projects was Perriand's Rangement Bibliothèque, a versatile series of bookshelves, each using the same five elements. Galerie Downtown, which owns the Steph Simon archives, will show Bibliothèque sur pieds (1957), an innately stylish bookshelf featuring simple wood plank feet and bold color blocks of red, white and cerise, at Design Miami/Basel. Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) was a visionary constructeur, rationalist thinker and ardent devotee of folded sheet metal and corrugated aluminum. His factory, established in 1945 and located near the city of Nancy, mass-produced furniture for schools and factories and built prototypes of pre-fabricated housing, necessary objects intended for the widest possible public. Dedicated to functionality, Prouvé claimed there was no structural difference between a chair and a building. In recent years, his iconic portable buildings have been reassembled in museums and galleries. The austere beauty of Maison des Jours Meilleurs (1954), designed with architect Maurice Silvy, bristles with ideas and social history. Pierre Paulin Line Vautrin Since its unforgettable 1970 debut at the Osaka World Expo, Pierre Paulin's Amphis sofa continues to be a showstopper. A dynamic three-dimensional stripe, Amphis exerts a mythic presence, a minimalist Loch Ness monster surfacing in a mod conversation pit. Paulin (1927-2009) was a virtuoso of space-age organic forms; his steel-framed chairs, upholstered in stretch fabrics, displayed garden variety inspirations—orange slices, mushrooms, tulips—and futuristic innovation. In a room imagined by Jousse Entreprise, Paulin's angular Spider table (1960) sidles up to the undulating Amphis. Set against perforated sheet metal panels (Jean Prouvé, Henri Prouvé, 1957), it's a surprisingly Edenic and distinctly modern tableau. In 1948 Vogue proclaimed Line Vautrin "the poetess of metal." Born into a family of metal founders, Vautrin was enormously inventive and highly independent. One early job, as a greeter in Schiaparelli's boutique, lasted just four days. While still a schoolgirl, she had created a line of gilded jewelry, selling it under the guise of her father's business. Vautrin's astonishing jewelry and sculpted objects—silvered boxes etched with rebus messages, blown-glass buttons encasing tiny sailing ships—display a sophisticated wit and an alchemical talent. During the 1950s, she developed a new technique: carving molten resin and colored mirror-glass into the elaborate decorative objects she dubbed "witches." The Comète mirror (1960) is a rare witch, uncharacteristically pink but altogether bedazzling. 62 CULTURED

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